The quarter-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2012 will witness a repeat of the UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 final on Wednesday, as European champions Spain face continental runners-up Russia. Anticipation is already growing ahead of the rematch between Europe’s strongest sides in what promises to be another cracker.
At their last meeting in February this year, the Sbornaja were seconds away from victory, only for the Iberians to fight back and secure the title. Spain’s Fernandao, the Furia Roja’s leading scorer at FIFA Futsal World Cups, is therefore understandably cautious, as he revealed to FIFA.com.
“It’ll be a very difficult game because Russia have a terrific team,” Fernandao warned. “They have a very balanced squad, effectively making two teams in one. Our chances are 50-50.”
The encounter against the eastern Europeans appears to come at the right time for Spain. After a 2-2 draw in their opening fixture against Iran, victories over Panama (8-3) and Morocco (5-1) followed. The 7-1 demolition of hosts Thailand in the last 16 paved the way into the quarter-finals and demonstrated Spain’s ability to “improve game by game,” according to Fernandao.
“We need to focus on ourselves against Russia and not think about them too much," the 32-year-old said. "This kind of match against strong sides suit us. We have enough experience to win them. At the end, the winning team won’t be the one who played better or made fewer mistakes, but the one with the better team spirit on the day."
They have a very balanced squad, effectively making two teams in one. Our chances are 50-50.
In Thailand, the Brazilian-born Fernandao has proven exactly why he has been a mainstay in the Spanish side for more than four years. The imposing forward has so far hit three goals in four games, taking his total tournament tally to ten, after netting seven times in Brazil 2008.
Fernando’s bald head makes him an instantly recognisable figure on the futsal court, as do his height and muscular physique. Yet while that may make him less nimble than his slighter teammates, his quality is clear to see.
“It has both positives and negatives,” Fernandao said of his stature. “Of course it’s an advantage to be big and strong as it helps to win the ball in challenges. But on the other hand I commit more fouls because I use my body going in to tackles.”
In that respect, the Barcelona player believes he has benefitted from his time on international duty. “After four years in the Spanish national side I’m a different player today,” Fernandao told FIFA.com "I’ve learned a lot at big tournaments and now have more self-confidence than I did in 2008. I’ve matured in that time."
The experienced forward also had no problem explaining Spain’s game-plan for reaching the last eight. “Our philosophy is to win every game. We don’t worry too much about each match, but focus instead on winning. We came to Thailand to become world champions. We don’t want to lose or draw. Victory is the only thing that counts for us.”
Russia may have a thing or two to say about that as they try to break Spain’s lengthy unbeaten record. Since 2005, coach Venancio Lopez’s side have gone 117 games without losing in open play. If everything goes according to plan for Fernandao and Co, that run will extend to 120 and counting by the time the tournament ends.